Photo: UNICC

UNICC’s Chief Technology Officer Presents at Hyperledger Global Forum

Hyperledger-UNICC partnership solidifies blockchain solutions for the UN family

UNICC continues to leverage an excellent partnership with Hyperledger for blockchain solutions for its Clients and Partner Organizations. Shashank Rai, Chief Technology Officer at UNICC, once again attended the Hyperledger Global Forum, this year in Dublin, Ireland. Shashank delivered a talk called ‘Blockchain, Biometrics and Geo-location: Lessons Learned from UNJSPF Innovative Technologies’ on 13 September.

Hyperledger is a not-for-profit entity, which has been created in particular to foster different blockchain solutions. It was formed by Linux Foundation so that all the different tech companies could collaborate on the development process of the Linux operating system. Due to the big success of this model, it has been replicated in a different number of other foundations.

Shashank, Rai, UNICC Chief Technology Officer

Hyperledger forum session: lessons learned from the Digital CE rollout

The context of the talk was the UNJSPF-UNICC project begun in January 2021, in accordance with the Pension Fund’s digital transformation strategy, to deploy a Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution, based on blockchain, biometrics and smart phone technologies, to transform their legacy pension certification and distribution process with their global reach of 80K beneficiaries located in more than 195 countries.

UNJSPF beneficiaries are required to sign and submit a Certificate of Entitlement every year as a ‘proof of existence’ and “proof of country of residence,’ to continue receiving their benefits. The UNJSPF Digital CE solution aims to create, verify, and secure the digital identities of beneficiaries – while also preventing fraud – using biometrics; identifying their locations with geo-location technology; and storing transactions on an immutable, traceable and independently auditable ledger, using the Hyperledger Indy blockchain platform.

Shashank emphasized the lessons learned after the first year of implementation of the Digital CE solution, addressing both technical and process related aspects of the deployment. This solution was selected as a finalist of two prestigious awards: The 2021 UN-Secretary-General’s award for innovation and sustainability; and the 2020 Gartner’s Eye on Innovation Awards for Government.

Other UNICC-Hyperledger collaboration opportunities

Public sectors entities such as the government of British Columbia (Canada) and U.S. state of Rhode Island are in various stages of implementing decentralized identities for their respective jurisdictions. UNICC has identified various areas of collaboration and exchange of ideas/experiences with these bodies.

About Hyperledger

Hyperledger is an open global ecosystem for enterprise grade blockchain technologies. It was created with the aim of accelerating industry-wide collaboration for developing high-performance and reliable blockchain and distributed ledger-based technology framework.

Any business can apply various modular blockchain solutions and services to significantly improve the performance of its operations and the efficiency of its business processes.

#hyperledgerforum


UNICC: Ouyang

UNICC at UNGA 77

The 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 77) opened on Tuesday 13 September 2022. The United Nations in New York welcomed world leaders to high level debates for deliberation and policy-making from Tuesday 20 September to Monday 26 September. As the main policy-making organ of the United Nations, the UNGA provides the opportunity for multilateral discussions on a range of international issues covered by the United Nations Charter (see Meetings Coverage and Press Releases).

Throughout the UNGA’s duration, various events took place to foster deliberation and collaboration across private and public spheres as well as in civil society, to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year’s theme ‘A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges’, convened leaders to discuss the shared roots of crises such as COVID-19, climate change and conflict– and to collaborate on solutions that build global sustainability and resilience.

Data and Digital Transformation

With the UNGA underway, UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan attended a social impact event sponsored by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Github called “Accelerating National Digital Transformation Through Data: Beta Launch the Digital Development Compass’ on Friday 16 September. At this side-event focusing on a new and innovative Digital Development Compass dashboard, Chauhan met with representatives from other UN entities as well as high-level executives from Microsoft.

Speakers at this session included Robert Opp, UNDP Chief Digital Officer; H.E. Iurie Turacnu, Deputy Prime Minister of Digitalization of the Republic of Moldova; Alex Wong, Chief Special Initiatives, Office of the Director at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); Yu Ping Chan, the Senior Programme Officer at the Office of the Secretary- General’s Envoy on Technology; and Mala Kumar, the Director of Tech for Social Good at Github.

The Digital Development Compass dashboard was built by GitHub’s Skills-Based Volunteering Program and is a first-of-its-kind tool to aggregate all publicly available data on countries’ digital development in one dashboard to further enable digital transformation.

The Digital Development Compass dashboard is now in its beta phase and uses UNDP’s inclusive, whole-of-society approach to assess countries’ digital transformation scores, identify gaps and recommend improvements. This makes national progress on digital transformation easier and faster than ever. By being a part of these conversations, UNICC furthers its ability to learn from other organizations and provide its expertise to help in the development of collaborative multilateral projects.

Photo: UNICC/Ouyang

Roundtable on Digital Cooperation

On Monday 19 September, Chauhan was accompanied by Anusha Dandapani, Chief, Data and Analytics Services, Anish Sethi, Chief, Clients and Projects, and David Damian Sandoval, Innovation and Outreach Officer, to take part in a Roundtable on Digital Cooperation hybrid event with UN Secretary General’s Tech Envoy Amandeep Gill and other stakeholders regarding the Global Digital Compact process and other priorities on the global digital cooperation agenda.

Diversity of perspective only way to ensure we are building the right solutions. UNICC is committed to being an example to the world to show what the UN system is doing and prove the point that if we are building technologies the right way with the right outcomes, then it is more than possible.

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore, the World Wide Web Foundation and the Office of the Tech Envoy convened the event, attended by representatives of various UN entities and NGOs. This roundtable opened with USG Gill presenting on the three pillars of Digital Cooperation and an open floor discussion for all participants to share digital priorities in the multilateral and international space.

Photo: UNICC/Ouyang

Chauhan took the floor to explain UNICC’s role and work in digitalization development across the UN system.

Photo: Diplo Foundation

UNICC Joins Geneva-based Organizations in Diplo Foundation’s Digital Atlas 2.0

UNICC is proud to be a participant in the Geneva-based Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), a Geneva-based collaboration space for technology governance, policy and innovation towards digital growth across the UN family.

Geneva Internet Platform – ‘where technology meets humanity’

Initiated by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) of Switzerland in 2014, GIP provides a neutral and inclusive space for digital policy debates, recognized by many global stakeholders as a platform where different views can be voiced.

Striving to conduct outreach beyond existing policy silos in technology, security, and human rights research spheres, GIP supports and reinforces opportunities for collaboration between sectors, initiatives and institutions across the technology sector.

Diplo Education Foundation – global diplomacy at its best

The GIP is operated by Diplo Education Foundation, which works to improve the role of small and developing states in global diplomacy and the capacity of international development in the field of Internet governance and digital policy. They do this by training officials through online courses, workshops and simulation exercises; developing capacity on Internet governance, cybersecurity, data, artificial intelligence, and other emerging tech issues; and promoting and developing digital tools for inclusive and impactful governance and policy-making. 

Digital Atlas 2.0 – Digital policy and services inventory for Geneva

The GIP launched the Geneva Digital Atlas in November 2020, as a comprehensive mapping of the digital policy scene in International Geneva. It provides in-depth coverage of the activities of almost 40 stakeholders, also featuring tours combining virtual and physical experiences in dealing with standardization, data, cybersecurity, and other pressing issues.

The Digital Atlas 2.0, includes Geneva-based organizations such as Child Rights Connect, CERN, the CyberPeace Institute, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Geneva Science-Policy Interface, ICT for Peace Foundation, International Organization for Standardization, IFRC, IGF, Kofi Annan Foundation, UNHRC, UNIDRI, UNRISD, The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, University of Geneva, WEF, as well as UNICC and many of its Clients: ILO, IPU, ITC, IOM, ITU, OCHA, OHCHR, UNCTAD, UNECE, UNHCR, UNOG, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO and many more.

UNICC contribution

UNICC was included in 2020 and was invited again to participate in 2022. See the UNICC entry here. As a key stakeholder in the technology ecosystem in Geneva, UNICC was a logical participant in the Digital Atlas 2.0. The Atlas showcases Geneva-based organizations regarding the impact of technology and the implementation of the SDGs.   

The GIP and its Digital Atlas 2.0 is used by Swiss authorities to highlight the digital importance of Geneva to the UN system and the world in general. GIP continues to deliver their mapping as a leading, know-how database of digital activity in the Geneva ecosystem. As a Swiss supported foundation, Diplo’s long-term aspirations strive to maintain and extend upon Geneva’s existing and thriving tech-ecosystem.  

As UNICC is currently positioned as a preferred operational and shared services Centre of Excellence for the UN system, its placed in the Digital Atlas is secure and remains an opportunity to continue its outreach and advocacy efforts to work with others in delivering on UN system mandates. UNICC, as a participant in the Digital Atlas 2.0, is committed to delivering reliable digital services driven by best practices, offering world-class technology, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and a system-wide cross-domain experience of knowledge and data, enabling its Clients and Partners Organizations to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals.

Photo: UN

UNICC Supports FAO Conferencing Needs for its 170th Council Session

UNICC partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to plan, set up, and integrate a reliable, scalable and user-friendly virtual conference platform for FAO’s 170th Council session.

On June 13th, 2022, the first day of the Council, the hybrid platform setup ensured that representatives attending in person at FAO’s headquarters in Rome and others joining virtually had a seamless conference experience.

Leveraging FAO’s previous conferencing platform and experience, UNICC worked over the course of eight weeks with 6Connex, a leading virtual event platform, to provide FAO’s Meeting Services Branch (CSGM) with a virtual conference environment with UNICC project management and support services essential to hosting Council sessions.

More than 600 delegates attended the Council through the virtual platform during the five days of the Governing Body.

I wanted to say a huge thank you for all the support you provided for the 170th session of the Council. All the preparatory work, together with your dedication and effective communication with participants ensured a smooth fruition of the Virtual Platform for all Members. Looking forward to future opportunities of collaboration.

Sergio Ferraro, Deputy Director, Governing Bodies Servicing Division at FAO.

During the conference, UNICC’s Conference Support team helped to expand FAO’s channels to support remote delegates by operating a multilingual live-chat module which the joint team tailored to FAO’s requirements and integrated into the Council’s conference virtual environment.

Image
Credit: FAO

The UNICC-FAO support team also created a standalone instance of the live-chat module, accessible to all delegates for exceptional circumstances (such as not being able to access the platform)– allowing delegates to access content outside of the conference’s virtual environment. The solution replaced FAO’s previous support model, comprised of Help Desk services confined to a particular virtual room in the Council’s environment, with limited customization, an email ticketing system and a telephone line.

The professionalism, dedication, creativity and cooperation of the UNICC team were fantastic! We shared a very good and positive team spirit, working together as one team towards a common goal. And it was a success.

Elisa Milanesio, Conference Officer, Governing Bodies Servicing Division at FAO

By fully integrating the live-chat module into the virtual environment hosted in the 6Connex platform, UNICC ensured instant access to support for all remote delegates across the virtual environment, thus realizing a more comprehensive and rapid support channel.

UNICC and FAO also provided the live-chat platform and support to:

  • Guide remote delegates across the virtual environment
  • Resolve registration and technical issues
  • Direct delegates to relevant documentation and agenda items available in the virtual environment and on the Council’s website
  • Streamline and troubleshoot virtual access to the Council’s plenaries taking place in the virtual environment via Zoom integration.

In addition to dedicating two support agents from its own ranks, UNICC’s Conference Support team trained two FAO personnel as support agents who in tandem provided multilingual support to remote delegates in the FAO’s six languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).

UNICC and FAO teams, together with the 6Connex platform team, collaborated extensively throughout the partnership. They met regularly to review work done and sync on the required actions for the implementation and customization of the live chat tool in 6Connex.

UNICC secured the 6Connex license and project management services for the implementation of the Council’s session, secured the license for, integrated and operated the live-chat platform, providing first level support to remote delegates, chiefly in the area of access to the virtual environment.

FAO led the effort to build and populate the virtual rooms of the Council’s virtual environment, managed delegates’ entitlements and access privileges, offered support to onsite delegates and provided and managed the Zoom tenant for the virtual component of the Council’s plenary sessions.

According to the live-chat platform data, 175 chats were supported on the days of the Council, aiding diplomats, ambassadors and country delegates with their access to the virtual venue. Through competent and regular analysis of requirements, documentation and project management practices, coordination, follow-up meetings and effective communication channels, UNICC’s Conference Support team was able to validate and meet FAO’s expectations for this digital diplomacy engagement and guarantee the timely delivery of expected services.

UNICC was the qualified and experienced partner that FAO sought at the onset of the project to deliver a smooth conference experience. This work was highly received through emails of Client appreciation.

Photo: UNDP Pakistan/Akhtar

UNDP Crisis Bureau’s Crisis Risk Dashboard Support

Ongoing Services from UNICC Data and Analytics, Application Development and Communications Teams

UNICC has been working with the UNDP since 2016 to provide support for data warehouse management and Business Intelligence services for their Crisis Risk Dashboard (CRD). More recently, UNICC has supported the UNDP with advanced analytics, operational support and their platform migration to the cloud.

The UNDP Crisis Bureau’s CRD with its Crisis Risk and Early Warning team of analysts and data scientists, aggregates real-time data to support monitoring, analysis and planning of crisis prevention and anticipatory action. The platform and its advisory services help UN system decision-makers with evidence-based insights, preventive approaches and adaptive programming in changing conditions.

The CRD enables effective monitoring, assessment and understanding of crisis-related risks. The CRD allows UNDP staff to gather and visualize crisis data, with the Crisis Bureau also providing the advisory support for evidence-based decision-making in crisis early warning situations around the world.

The CRD enables UNDP to do ongoing analysis and have easily accessible data. This is particularly useful in countries where data is not easily available.

Nirina Kiplagat, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa

Its Global Crisis Risk Dashboard houses key data for crisis risk management. It can be customized as a Country Office CRD with in-depth information on a single country or as a Regional CRD or Issue-based CRD in response to specific UN risks that cover multiple countries or thematic areas.

UNICC assisted with continued operational and advisory support to ensure business as usual. Initiatives include:

  • Helping to estimate new data sets to be ingested
  • Applying annual data set updates with ongoing operational support
  • New licenses were assigned for the Tableau Business Intelligence software
  • Tableau was updated to its most recent version
  • Migrating the CRD to the Azure cloud.

As the CRD grows in visibility across the organization, the Crisis Bureau also requested that UNICC’s Communications team develop some collateral on CRD success stories as well as a video for greater exposure of the programme across UNDP and with UN family stakeholders.

Credit: UNDP CRD (not for public viewing)

Credit: UNDP CRD (video for Crisis Bureau use only)

Some of the use cases of interest include:

Election Monitoring in Malawi

  • The CRD helped identify a large number of human rights violations committed by the police in 2019, an insight that led to UNDP supporting capacity building for police, reducing the number of human rights violations during 2020 elections.

Early Warning in Tunisia

  • The CRD is used by UNDP and the Peace and Development Advisor team in Tunisia at the tenth anniversary of Arab Spring uprisings to track and visualize how protest movements are developing over time.

UNICC is pleased to work with the Crisis Bureau to ensure the CRD remains a valuable asset for UNDP Country Offices in crisis contexts across the globe.

Photo: OHCHR/Albouy

UNICC Builds Mandate Review and Management System to Support UN Secretariat Business Processes

UN Secretariat business processes mapped and systematized through M365

The UN system is experiencing digital transformation at every level. It is benefiting from cloud-based technologies to streamline its business workflows and provide cost-efficiencies, smart solutions using new technologies, and ensuring a safe and secure environment for its enterprise applications, information and data.

Even before the challenges of COVID, the UN Secretary-General’s Data Strategy for Action by Everyone, Everywhere offered a roadmap for digital transformation in every corner of every organization. This together with his Strategy on New Technologies sets out a new course to maximize efficiencies and effectiveness across the UN family. UNICC has been at the forefront of delivering innovation and economies of scale for multiple digital projects across the UN family, notably with Microsoft 365 tools and integrated workspaces.

In the course of their work for UN intergovernmental bodies, delegates need to understand the cost implications of draft resolutions, so relevant offices within the UN Secretariat collaborate to prepare oral statements of programme budget implications (PBIs). The PBI process is complex, requiring multiple stakeholders to add and review data, often across several entities within a tight time frame. Several levels of review may be needed prior to approval. Reporting must be precise and swiftly communicated.

Until recently, the common practice for each entity responsible for providing services in support of activities mandated by resolutions of intergovernmental bodies, has been to track relevant information separately in locally-stored files. This often resulted in cumbersome manual consolidation processes, and no single platform existed from which to view and extract information on previously approved mandates.

Following consultations, a multi-stakeholder ‘Mandate Review and Management System team’ was established, comprising of staff from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM)-Geneva, the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), and the Department for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance (DMSPC)-Programme Planning and Budget Division (PPBD) in New York. The team reached out to UNICC requiring the creation of a digital solution that would unify and systematize the intricate PBI business process workflows, augmenting collaboration in real time using the UN’s M365 technology toolkit.

With its deep experience and expertise with M365 cloud technologies, UNICC leveraged the M365 licenses already in place across the UN system. UNICC’s Application Delivery, Cloud Services and Data and Analytics teams went to work building a M365-based solution in order to provide this optimized system.

Due to the large volume of PBIs emanating from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) each year and the visibility of its work, supporting the internal business processes of the Secretariat emanating from mandates of this intergovernmental body was identified as the initial use case of the planned system.

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Credit: MRMS Team

Towards a Mandate Review and Management System
The functionalities built by UNICC now allow multiple UN Secretariat offices to cooperate in the cost review, approval and tracking of mandates for services related to conferences, travel, operational support, and legal services as well as human resources and Human Rights-related field missions support.

The MRMS is a fully-integrated system for the execution of internal Secretariat business processes related to PBIs. Microsoft SharePoint Online provides resolution dashboards (an overview of records created), data entry, data storage and a user interface. Microsoft Teams provides a user collaboration tool, while Microsoft Outlook manages email notifications.

Microsoft Word was used for oral statement documents and Microsoft Excel provides bulk reference data import and export, as well as maintenance of reference data such as DSA rates, travel rates, and standard cost estimates. Microsoft PowerBI provides the standard reporting.

The system’s functionalities include:

  • Workflows and processes with automated notifications to handle multiple entities interacting in a collaborative way
  • User-friendly forms for data input with automated calculations
  • Automated consolidation of data
  • Live workflow process tracking
  • Central storage and retrieval of mandate information
  • Tracking and reporting capabilities through Microsoft PowerBI.

Realized business benefits include:

  • Elimination of voluminous email exchanges
  • Enhanced efficiency and removal of manual costing file management process
  • Improved, online collaboration
  • Workflows and processes clarified
  • Current and historical data securely accessible by all stakeholders, anytime, anywhere
  • Ability to scale-up as required
  • Leverages the current investment in the Microsoft 365 platform.

The MRMS is a testament to clear business benefits resulting from an effective collaboration of several entities in a forward-thinking process improvement exercise.

The extensive expertise and technical insights provided by UNICC staff were instrumental in translating the requirements brought by the MRMS project team stakeholders into user-friendly digital solutions.

Mandate Review and Management System Team

The first version of the MRMS was released in February 2022 ahead of the 49th session of the HRC. Constructive feedback from users was received and incorporated into the MRMS ahead of the HRC’s 50th session, and further improvements are already being deployed ahead of the HRC’s 51st session.

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Credit: MRMS Team

[The Mandate Review and Management System] is a wonderful example of teamwork and collaboration.

Johannes Huisman, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, OPPFB, DMSPC

The MRMS has been praised by senior management and by active system users as a significant new tool. Critically, the MRMS is built with scalability in mind so that, if required, it can be expanded beyond HRC use, with the potential to include other human rights bodies and mechanisms, including Committees of the General Assembly.

See also the original article by the MRMS Team in UN Today.

Photo: Unsplash/Mora

OECD/UNDP – Tax Inspectors Without Borders: A Digitalization Journey

OECD, UNDP and UNICC collaborate to deliver a digital business solution for tax audit capacity-building programmes

Domestic revenue resources are the largest source of financing for development and are the best way to support long-term economic growth and poverty reduction. The ability of governments to raise tax revenues is key and tax administrators are on the frontline in the battle against tax avoidance.

Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB), a capacity-building initiative run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), enables sharing of tax audit knowledge and skills with tax administrations in developing countries to enhance their capacity in the tax audit practice through a practical, hands-on approach.

During the past year, UNICC has worked with TIWB to digitalize their programme processes. In response to OECD’s request to define a technical solution, UNICC conducted a Digital Solution Assessment with the goal to define the TIWB service journey with a technology solution roadmap to develop and deliver a minimum viable product (MVP), which was completed in March 2022.

The main goals of this digitalization journey were to increase the automation of processes; enable the TIWB Secretariat to optimize time spent on programme completion through greater visibility of programme status, milestones and tasks; enhance collaboration between the TIWB Secretariat, UNDP partners and other stakeholders with shared tools and to increase completeness of programme documentation.

The three collaborating organizations conducted several workshops to understand TIWB’s service journey including all the steps involved in the process, from pre-initiation work to selection of a tax expert, as well as programme design, implementation, evaluation and follow-up; stakeholder inclusion; front and back-stage actions and interactions and touch points and systems.

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Credit: UNICC/UNDP

The digital business solution UNICC delivered is built with Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies seamlessly integrated to cover all the requirements presented by TIWB. Nine current dashboards aggregate information related to programmes and allow for management, reporting, monitoring and evaluation.

The solution includes features that support contact management, programme cycle management with deliverables and milestone details, reports and templates management, documentation storage, collaboration tools for UNDP partners and more.

Additionally, the team delivered “how-to” guidelines and documentation related to the solution design and implementation, a project wiki, customized code in Azure DevOps repository and a service guide for Tier 3 support, with the expertise needed for Tier 1 and Tier 2 maintenance shared with OECD team members. UNICC also delivered a final user training session and a technical team workshop.

After completing this first project and delivering a successful MVP, UNICC will continue working with TIWB on a second phase project to implement and scale the solution, allowing TIWB to continue operations in the 54 countries and jurisdictions they currently serve.

This project supports the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals, and the rest of the 2030 Agenda through better tax audit capacity for stronger domestic resources to invest in development.

Credit: OECD/UNDP
Photo: UNDP Kenya

CADRI Leverages Digital Solutions for Disaster Risk Reduction

UNICC helps to build and host the UN inter-Agency CADRI tool for capacity diagnosis and planning

CADRI partnership – capacity for disaster reduction initiative
As the COVID-19 pandemic has amply revealed, digital solutions for capacity development support to at-risk countries are a critical priority for UN Agencies. CADRI partners are seizing the opportunity to test and improve the delivery of the capacity development services in the virtual space. UNICC is now helping to make this a reality.

UNICC has been working with CADRI, the Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative, to provide digital tools for disaster resilience. Founded by three UN organizations – OCHA, UNDP and UNDRR, CADRI is a global partnership led by the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements systems. It gathers 20 humanitarian and development organizations that came together to build a unique mechanism for countries to access expertise in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Over the past decade, CADRI has deployed expert teams to more than 30 countries.

CADRI has broadened its offer of capacity development services to include climate change adaptation in addition to disaster risk reduction. The CADRI methodology integrates Leave No One Behind, conflict-sensitivity, and gender-responsiveness principles in its approach to capacity development. It is scaling up services at regional levels to respond to increasing country demand for capacity development support. UNICC is supporting with a variety of digital business solutions.

At the request of governments and UN Country Teams, and through its digital capacity diagnosis and planning tool, CADRI is helping countries identify critical capacity gaps and develop clear capacity development interventions to address these.

CADRI partners provide a wide range of services to countries, from risk information systems support and risk-informed planning processes to preparedness for response and recovery support, with tailored capacity development services in preparedness for disaster response.

As much of the world undergoes further digital transformation with expanded virtual working practices, digital tools amplify support to various sectors, including agriculture and food security, nutrition, health, education, the environment, infrastructure, water, sanitation and hygiene and human mobility.

Capacity for disaster reduction initiative.

Credit: CADRI

The CADRI Tool
Enter the CADRI Tool. Custom-built to support virtual environments, the tool is used to guide assessors and planners to apply an analytical frame to assess capacities to manage disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) that is relevant to a country context. As a joint UN programme with joint funding proposals, it is used to assist in developing national (DRR) and CCA strategies, inform on national contingency planning, identify entry points for risk reduction in national development plans.

UNICC has been a key partner in developing our CADRI Tool, which supports capacity development for disaster risk reduction initiatives through participatory planning. CADRI partners are seizing the opportunity to test and improve the delivery of capacity development services in the virtual space.

Sophie Baranes, CADRI Partnership Coordinator

The CADRI Secretariat and the UN International Computing Centre initially released the CADRI Tool for Capacity Diagnosis and Planning in early 2022. Built upon questionnaires reflecting generic disaster risk reduction, preparedness and climate change adaptation elements, along with agriculture, food security and human mobility, the tool is now being used across partnership environments globally.

Collectively developed by CADRI partnership Agencies, the CADRI Tool guides teams to conduct capacity diagnosis processes at the country level. It provides users with a wealth of thematic resources to support countries in implementing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation initiatives at national and local levels. The tool is used for CADRI-supported missions as well as in-country processes led entirely at a country level.

The CADRI Tool project goal was to develop a methodology and system that allows Capacity Diagnosis teams to customize country questionnaires based on an array of filters including modules, hazards, capacities, report elements, and principles. Once a questionnaire is generated for a particular country, team members are invited to the system to tailor their questionnaire subsets further for use and application in the field.

The results of in-field interviews are input into the system where they can be reviewed by the team and approved by the sub-team and team leader. All interview data is amalgamated into a final report which includes diagrams and other visuals based on a scoring metric.

Benefits

• A system to house data for analyzing disaster capacities against actual capabilities for disaster readiness

• A pathway to address disaster readiness gaps

• Housing data in a unified system to allow decisions to be made for risk-informed planning, ultimately saving lives as well as valuable resources

• A governmental partnership approach to understanding risk-informed planning

• Provides a practical tool and expertise to understand and respond to disaster and climate risk

• A country- and government-led participatory and inclusive process

• Operational, humanitarian response, providing opportunities to invest in early warning/action

• Significant Return on Investment

• Digital-first solution for partnership and collaboration

• Effective and efficient solution to combat climate change disasters.

Project deliverables include migrating the previous CADRI website to a UNICC-hosted cloud platform, a website redesign and modernization, CADRI Tool baseline development, tool advanced development and a reporting dashboard.

CADRI Tool features include assessments questionnaire, assessment results and data, workflows, such as creating an assessment questionnaire with questionnaire contributors, reviewers, editors, approvers and publishers. The tool also generates email notifications, deadline alerts, etc. for each relevant user groups. The tool offers an assessment management dashboard with a single view of all processes and their statuses.

Ongoing support services include hosting service support (monitoring, backups, access control and user management and cloud services management), application and software support, service desk support (24/7) and security management (regular patch management , anti-malware/virus tools and service operations as per industry standards of ISO 27001.

UNICC has been a critical partner to assisting CADRI in building and maintaining the CADRI Tool, supporting capacity development for disaster risk reduction initiatives through participatory planning.

CADRI partners beginning to use the system regularly to test and improve the delivery of capacity development services in their virtual spaces.

UNPP Rafiki Chatbot
Photo: Pixabay/Tumisu

Meet Rafiki: UN Partner Portal Answer Bot

UNICC builds bot to automate support for a better partnership experience

The UN Partner Portal is a centralized online platform that streamlines partnership opportunity selection between UN Agencies (UN Secretariat, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). The portal is managed by UNICC, including ongoing hosting, appdev and communications services.

The portal’s Helpdesk, called Zendesk, has a new helper named Rafiki, which means ‘friend’ in Swahili. It was developed by UNICC’s Application Delivery team to help users of the platform find answers to their most common questions.

The UN Partner Portal is used by UN Agencies and CSO partners to view, apply to and share partnership opportunities. Rafiki is an answer bot that’s able to resolve questions and help solve issues related to onboarding, viewing and selecting partnership opportunities, such as how to register or how to apply for opportunities in the portal.

The Zendesk support was previously handled by a human support team. With Rafiki, the goal is to improve the user experience for UN Partner Portal members by automating as much of the support process as possible, providing answers in real time.

Improving the user experience and responsiveness is the number one factor for a successful platform. Rafiki is our number one.

Vinicius de Souza Antero, Full Stack Developer, UNICC

To access the bot, users can click on the ‘Ask Rafiki’ button that is displayed in the portal after logging in. Rafiki is available throughout the portal to help users at every stage.

Rafiki the answer bot indexes articles available in the UN Partner Portal Resource library and is able to understand human questions (for example “How can I register?”) and find articles containing answers (for example “Registration in UN Partner Portal”). Rafiki offers an option to get in touch with the human support team in case users can’t find the answers they are looking for in the automated replies.

Always ready to help as a friend, Rafiki is a one-stop solution.

Pallavi Kolluri, UN Partner Portal Project Delivery Coordinator, UNICC

Rafiki went live in January of 2022, after the team piloted the technology for two months – to understand how well the bot could interact with the UN Partner Portal resource library. Now, the goal of the team is to keep improving current articles with further details and to add new content to the library, so Rafiki can be leveraged to its maximum potential.

Photo: UN Partner Portal

About the UN partner portal

The UN Partner Portal is a centralized online platform that streamlines the partnership selection process between UN Agencies and CSOs, sharing organizational and project information and matching expertise with open opportunities.

The development of the UN Partner Portal draws on decades of successful partnerships between the UN and civil society, consultations with networks of NGOs, as well as best practices in partnership management, to support the harmonization and simplification of business processes.

Five UN Agencies are currently part of the UN Partner Portal: UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP and the UN Secretariat, including some of its offices and departments like DESA, OCHA, OHCHR, UN Habitat, UNEP and UNODC.


Photo: Diplo

UNICC’s Director and Chief of Operations Speak at Diplo’s Science Diplomacy Week Open Forum

UNICC’s Sameer Chauhan and Marco Liuzzi discuss AI solutions for diplomats

On 17 May 2022, Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC and Marco Liuzzi, Chief, Operations Division, UNICC spoke at the ’AI as a Tool for Diplomacy and Mediation’ event as part of this year’s Science Diplomacy Week to discuss Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools UNICC has developed and their impact on the work of diplomats, as well as the challenges UNICC faced in order to create a set of needs-oriented tools.

AI as a Tool for Diplomacy and Mediation is a hybrid event organized by the DiploFoundation as part of this year’s Science Diplomacy Week, which took place in Geneva from 16 to 20 May to highlight the current and potential future uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a tool for diplomatic practice and peace mediation. The discussion detailed various applications of AI, in particular in the areas of natural-language processing and image recognition.

Panelists included Dr. Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director, Diplo and Head, Geneva Internet Platform (GIP); Dr. Katharina Höne, Director of Research, Diplo; Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC; Marco Liuzzi, Chief, Operations Division, UNICC; Jovan Njegić, Head, AI and Data Lab; and Dr Andreas Hirblinger, Postdoctoral Researcher, Center on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding, Geneva Graduate Institute.

During the discussion, three key questions were raised:

  • What tools have been developed and demonstrated as pilot projects and what is the impact on the work of diplomats and mediators?
  • How can conversations between diplomatic practitioners and developers of AI applications be facilitated in order to create tools that are needs-oriented?
  • Why is this an important conversation to have now and what are some of the current and future challenges?

In a conversation guided by Dr. Jovan Kurbalija, Sameer Chauhan gave a bit of background about UNICC and answered the question of how conversations between diplomatic practitioners and developers of AI applications can be facilitated in order to create tools that are needs-oriented. He gave three use cases with AI solutions deployed and utilized for sensitive negotiations.

Sameer discussed UNICC’s support for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) as a first use case, where UNICC developed an AI-based biometrics solution to register over 50,000 delegates worldwide in a short period of time and in a way that minimizes the bias of certain parts of the world where delegates could not be registered. The second use case was analyzing documents where UNICC had to assess a massive number of documents produced in different languages. And the final use case was real-time sentiment analysis on social media for large human rights conferences.

Marco Liuzzi shared with the audience the challenges of AI technology and he focused on the major challenge of the issue of bias and what can be done to avoid that bias from becoming embedded in the AI algorithm. He also shared UNICC’s approach when delivering AI solutions to its Clients and the risks and concerns when AI is applied to specific fields where there is a high impact like diplomacy.

We at UNICC hear our Clients in the sense that the solutions we are providing are needs-based solutions and I think this is very useful in the context of AI. There are these qualitatively new technologies like Machine Learning that we can always refine and make practical for the needs of the UN system and for all diplomats.

Marco Liuzzi, Chief, Operations Division, UNICC

Watch the full stream of the event